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Jessica Paige, Farmer/Entrepreneur

What does a day in your work life look like?

I start work at 7am daily. The farm crew and I usually have a daily morning meeting and talk about what needs to get done on the farm. After our chat, we get straight to work! I’ve recently been managing the seedling greenhouses and chickens on the farm. I’ll start the mornings by feeding our chickens compost scraps, cracked corn and other essential vitamins and minerals. I’ll then make sure they have fresh water, clean the coop if needed, and collect their eggs. After chicken chores, I’ll open up our greenhouses and check the seedlings for water. As we approach warmer months, making sure our seedlings get enough water is essential! 

After watering the seedlings, I’ll go out into our field for a morning harvest. Harvesting and washing our produce typically takes the entire morning. Our produce goes to our on-site commercial kitchen and market. We also have about a 275 member CSA and sell to wholesale / restaurants. We have about 30 acres of production fruit and vegetables, so there’s always work to be done!

The afternoon usually consists of projects or tasks such as seeding our next succession of greens or flowers, prepping beds in the field, transplanting, weeding or various construction projects… the list goes on!

Farming is a beautiful challenge; everyday is different. I am inevitably forced to face things, fix things, be creative, problem solve, endure physically and mentally. It is all an opportunity to learn and grow.

What made you start doing the amazing things that you do?

I think from an early age, I always knew that I wanted to make a positive impact on the world. The thought of giving back to communities, while simultaneously stewarding and caring for the land ignited a fire in me that has led me to do what I now do: farming.

In college, I studied Environmental Studies and decided to write a thesis on the topic of Regenerative Farming in the Context of Climate Change. Through my field research and interviews with regenerative farmers, I discovered that I wanted to be part of the regenerative revolution; I saw tremendous amounts of opportunity in regenerative farming specifically.

Over the course of my farming career, I've realized that the calling on my life is much greater than just growing food- it's figuring out the most sustainable methods to grow that food, for the health and benefit of all ecosystems. Farming is very hard work and I don't want to glamorize the occupation by saying this, but this line of selfless work has been incredibly fulfilling on so many levels!

Did you complete any training? If not, how did you learn your trade/skill?

I started farming through a program called WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), in the summer of 2020. I had such a great first experience, that I continued to WWOOF throughout the summers of my college career. After finishing up my Environmental Studies degree, the next logical step for me was to pursue a farm apprenticeship and managerial roles. I never stopped doing my own research and seeking the next best opportunity.

What do you want people to know about being a woman in your field?

Women are more than capable of doing the "hard things". Women bring a beautiful feminine element to farming that is strength, care and grace... which I believe the world needs more of.

I feel as though I am part of this new generation of young, diverse farmers; it makes me feel good to know that many of these young farmers are actually women! I currently work with a farm crew of 18 people and 16 of them are women.

What are you great at, and what do you suck at?

I’m great at adapting, creative thinking and keeping an optimistic perspective. As a farmer, those qualities just make the job easier. Things don’t always go as planned on a farm, so it’s important to always have a backup plan or be able to adapt with the situation. Creative thinking comes in handy when faced with the various daily challenges that can arise during the work day.

I am not so great at organization! I think everyone who has more of an artistic mind or personality can relate to this. I have a way of doing things that make sense to me, but to an outsider looking in, it’s absolutely chaos! 

What are the top five things that are always in your pockets? 

A harvest knife or two, rubber bands for harvesting, a sharpie, a lighter (for ticks, obviously), and my cell-phone. 

What are you doing when you’re not working hard? 

I really love taking the time to travel. Whether that might be going on camping trips, hikes, biking to the local beach or taking a flight somewhere new during the off-season! Although I pretty much live outside, I can’t get enough of the outdoors. Aside from adventurous activities, I also crave a slow morning at home and being creative in the kitchen. Cooking with the veggies that I grow and baking with our own grain has become a very enjoyable activity for me! I've recently been learning how to bake my own sourdough bread and although I haven't mastered that skill just yet, I am very determined to! 

How do you encourage other women to start doing what you do? 

Say a prayer and go for it...seriously! The truth is, nobody is ever truly ready or prepared enough to pursue their dream. But if you have a dream, you have it for a reason. Life is all about trying and failing and trying again. I face challenges every single day, but at the end of the day I know that I grow from those challenges and always learn something. 

Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are? 

I did my very first apprenticeship in 2022 at Frith Farm in Southern Maine. The owner of Frith Farm, Daniel Mays, was my mentor throughout the season. Daniel helped inspire my path as a farmer and leader. I was taught how to farm regeneratively on a production scale- that was huge for me! After learning all about no-till production farming that season, I walked away feeling confident in that specific method of land stewardship and business model. I also walked away more confident in my ability to start my own farm sooner rather than later. 

If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be? 

Do not limit yourself to your own thoughts, but instead, walk boldly in faith.

Having a strong faith foundation has been critical to my success, my confidence and my character. Having a dream or passion, that is built on a faith foundation to fall back on or lean on, has allowed me to navigate my way through all of the ups and downs of my life path and career. I now like to think of faith as my compass in life.

Do you have any special projects or cool things you want people to check out?

I recently bought a farm, Adama Farm, and will be starting my farm business very soon in the Northern IL region! The goal is to be in operation by the 2024 season. I plan on farming 3 to 3.5 acres of organic, no-till fruit and vegetables. In the future, I will hopefully expand production to grains and fiber.

My mission is to faithfully steward the land while providing the local community with fresh produce, farm events & gatherings, as well as rich educational opportunities.

You can follow the progress of the farm on IG, @adamafarm. 

What does workwear designed for women mean to you?

Workwear typically isn't designed for women, so I am incredibly grateful for Dovetail Workwear. Having work pants and overalls that not only fit well, but look GOOD makes me that much more confident in the field. Workwear designed by and for women sends a clear message: women are capable of doing tough and dirty work! 

What did you want to be when you were growing up, or a little kid?

I wanted to be a fashion designer or photographer growing up! I've always been a creative person and still am today. I even went to college to specifically pursue art.

Farming was definitely not on my mind until I became exposed to various farming practices and how those practices affect our environment. I felt that I had a responsibility, and although the burden of climate change shouldn't be on the shoulders of farmers alone, I did feel as though I was capable to help in some way. My love for farming has now developed into this nurturing, artistic practice that stimulates both my creative side and nature-loving side.

What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?

As a 24 year old farmer, I find that I am constantly sacrificing the life most of my friends are living in their 20s. I don’t go “out” as often, simply because my job requires all of my time and energy. When I do have free time, all I can manage to do is sleep, cook a good meal and take time for myself. I even find it hard to maintain good relationships with the ones I love. I think a lot of full-time farmers can relate to this. The farm is our life! 

What scares you?

Ticks! They seem to be everywhere. I once found 8 ticks on me after the work day. I typically do tick checks every hour in the spring and summer months, but finding a tick, or multiple, never gets easier. I am absolutely terrified of getting Lyme disease, so I make it a priority to get tested each year. Last season, I was almost certain that I had Lyme... turned out, it was just August and I was a very tired farmer!

Tell us something surprising about you.  

Although I'm constantly covered in dirt and most of my clothes are farm-stained, I love an excuse to get dressed up and / or explore the latest fashion trend! I have two sides to me: a part of me absolutely adores the farm life and all that comes with it: being in the countryside, playing in the dirt, spending hours outdoors with messy hair and dirty fingernails. The other side of me finds oh-so-much enjoyment in putting on make-up, trying out a new hairstyle and styling a cute outfit for a day in the city! Can't a girl do both?! 

Are there any organizations/nonprofits you work with that you think we should know about?

Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett, New York is a non-profit that I am currently working for and with, this 2023 season, as an apprentice. Amber Waves is a diversified vegetable, flower and grain farm that seeks to connect people to locally grown food through a CSA program, gardening and cooking workshops and children's programs. 

Tell us something dirty.

I've had one too many encounters with chicken poop recently. Last week I found some on my hat, which I didn't realize was there until I smelled it... gross.

Social media handle: @jessithefarmer

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